Protest for Ethiopian Civil Rights blocks downtown Seattle streets

SEATTLE — A large demonstration blocked traffic in downtown Seattle on Tuesday as it made way to the Federal Building.

The protesters — many of them members of the East African community — want Washington senators to pressure Ethiopian leaders or cut U.S. aid in the wake of the ongoing mass killings that they say are targeting ethnic Oromos in Ethiopia. See photos from the protest here.

Here is the reason for the protest

Members of the East African community in Seattle planned a huge rally with regard to the "ongoing mass killings targeting ethnic Oromos  in Ethiopia."

"The Ethiopian regime is the largest U.S aid recipient in Africa and the protestors will be heading to the Federal Building to demand both Senators pressure the Ethiopian regime or cut the US aid to the dictatorial regime," a news release said.

They plan to send a letter to Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

“We, members of the Oromo community in Seattle and Metropolitan area, refugees and immigrants alike, arise in protest because we believe American aid is financing human and environmental atrocities directed against the Oromo people by the current Ethiopian regime,” a letter they wrote says in part.

Many of the protestors are in Seattle because they fled oppression in Ethiopia, now they want the federal government to help them stop oppression there.

University of Washington Student Marii Beshir came to this country with her parents.

“Back home, students who just simply trying to get their education are being forced to drop out of school to fight for their parents’ land back home,” she said.

A few protestors were allowed inside Cantwell's office to meet with her staff. They asked that the US use the nearly 700 million dollars in aid it gives Ethiopia as leverage to stop the abuses.

While loud, the protest was peaceful. And demonstrators believe the short inconvenience to drivers was necessary.

About the killings in Ethiopia

Their focus is the Ethiopian government plan to double the size of the capital Addis Ababa-- at the expense, protesters say, of millions of the Oromo people who are in the majority there.

An Ethiopian opposition party charged Wednesday that Ethiopian government forces have killed more than 80 people in the past four weeks in protests in the country's Oromia region, according to The Associated Press.

Violent clashes between protesters and security forces have spread across Ethiopia's Oromia Region, the biggest and most populous of Ethiopia's federal states. Oromo students have led protests against the government's plan which they charge will take lands from their region and displace thousands of farmers.

The government charges that the protesters are working with "terrorists." It claims that only five protesters have been killed and that the development plan for Addis Ababa  will not deprive farmers of land. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, speaking on Ethiopian state television, warned that the government "will take merciless legitimate action against any force bent on destabilizing the area."

Despite protests, the Ethiopian government says it will press ahead with its expansion plans.

Protest had minimal traffic impacts

The Seattle Department of Transportation reported shortly after 11 a.m. that the demonstration started at 14th Avenue and Jackson Street near the Central District.

The demonstration went through Pioneer Square around noon, and it ended after the march to the Federal Building.

SDOT told drivers to expect possible delays.

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